Undergraduate research students assist professors and graduate students with ongoing projects or conduct an independent research project with faculty guidance.
Students build skills that make them competitive for jobs, prepare for and narrow their field of interest for graduate school, and learn to understand original research so they can interpret it for future management decisions.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I get the skills necessary for paying jobs?
Students usually get hired first as field technicians. There are summer jobs available through USAJobs, the government hiring portal. Skills typically recommended for NRM jobs include things like:
- basic ID for birds, mammals, fish, by sight, calls, or sign
- conducting various census techniques like: quail call counts(they take place every year), camera trapping, even mark-recapture
- Plant ID and its uses for things like wetland delineation and habitat assessment
- proven ability to work in remote areas with 4wd vehicles, boats, or other equipment
Can I get paid for my skills?
That depends. Typically, paid positions are more likely to be for ongoing research projects. Individual projects are more often unpaid, but some independent projects are paid if their focus fits in a larger issue the professor has funding for.
Usually, paid positions offer less freedom to try out multiple projects in the lab since you are hired to work on a specific project. Research for credit it is usually unpaid.
For some jobs, where faculty have a grant that requires particular monitoring etc., students with those skills may indeed find paid jobs. But, faculty tend to hire those students whom they know, and whom they know can do the job. The way you become one of those students is:
- to start by volunteering for local opportunities, or traveling with grad students and other undergrads to the larger captures etc. to start to get 'dirty'
- keep your eyes open and take any opportunity you can for things that will get you the skills, experience, and make you known to the faculty and grad students who are most often looking to hire field technician help
- watch regular departmental announcements for jobs both local NRM jobs and permanent real world jobs
I want a job. How do I find one?
The job boards in the Goddard Building's hallways are updated nearly every other day with a variety of paid internships, volunteer opportunities, jobs, and lab openings. In addition, each undergraduate NRM major receives these postings by email as soon as the department is alerted of a new opportunity.
How do I get involved in undergraduate research?
Several paths lead to research positions in a professor's lab:
- connect with professors through the TTU Center for Undergraduate Research (they also provide one on one mentoring, research funding, and skills training for undergraduate researchers)
- answer a job listing for a paid position
- discover an exciting research topic while taking a class from a professor and join the lab group
- find a professor that studies your specific interest by reading about their research online and contacting those that might be a good fit
TIP: If you are interested in a specific lab group don't be afraid to contact the professor.
What kind of research could I do at TTU through NRM?
NRM students do research in a wide variety of labs and research groups across campus. Our undergrads may find themselves:
- learning to identify ant specimens using a microscope
- doing call surveys for wild quail
- capturing and measuring feral hogs
- snorkeling for snails in desert spring
- characterizing plant communities
- following radio tagged horned lizards
- investigating bat caves
- wading through playas populated by waterfowl
- capturing and relocating pronghorn antelope
- studying migratory warblers in the Caribbean
- researching black bears
TIP: Ask your faculty advisor to help you get started.
How do I know if I should assist with ongoing work or do an independent project?
If you haven't done research before, begin by assisting with an ongoing project.
Independent projects often develop from ongoing research projects as the student gains more experience and begins cultivating their own interests.
Professors know that students may need to try out several labs before they find a compelling topic and start a longer term project.
How do I know which lab is right for me?
Your choice of what lab to work in should be guided by two factors:
- Where do your interests lie and what future career do you have in mind?
- Is the lab a good fit for you?
Each professor has slightly different expectations and general practices in their research group. Some personally manage each project and have weekly individual meetings with each student.
Others expect students to work more independently and come to the professor when help is needed or speak up in group lab meetings to solve problems.
How many hours will I be expected to put in and for how long?
Undergraduate research is usually part-time during the university year and more intensive in the summer.
If done for credit, research usually requires similar hours to a comparable class. Most professors ask that if you join the lab group you commit to working for at least one semester. The number of hours you are expected to put in will vary between research groups.
TIP: Ask potential mentors about the time commitment they expect.
How far along in my education do I have to be to do research?
Undergraduate researchers are often upperclassmen and women only because it may take some time for students to develop a focus and decide on a major.
You can get involved in a research group at any time. However, if you plan to attend graduate school after college, the more research you do, the better.
What is the difference between undergraduate research and an internship?
Interns gain skills to prepare for working in jobs outside of a university setting and share in the responsibility of moving the non-profit, company, or government organization toward its goals. For example, an intern might work in a national park and interact with visitors, maintain park facilities, and help with biological monitoring to meet the goals of educating the public about and maintaining biodiversity.
Undergraduate Researchers gain skills to prepare for graduate school and learn to interpret scientific research and work toward answering scientific questions.